We were delighted that Jason Pearce and Jacob Safa gave up their evening last Thursday to answer questions from CAST members after the formal AGM.
Heather Alderson introduced Jason as "the man who needs no introduction" and quoted Andy Scott as saying how fortunate the club are to have someone "so committed to our club".
Jacob is the holder of the 2023 Steve Clarke award. In memory of much-loved Steve this recognises not just football ability but all round capacity, teamwork and educational achievement. Heather asked Jacob about his current injury:
Jacob: In late September I tore ankle ligaments in under 21 training and I was in a boot and on crutches for three weeks. I hated it. It is my first proper injury but I am now at last completing my rehab out on the pitch.
Heather: Who is the player you model yourself on or look up to ?
Jacob: I look up to Karoy Anderson. He was very welcoming and supportive of me when I moved up to the under 18s and I'd like to follow in his footsteps and break into the first team.
Jason: I was a Chelsea fan when I was Jacob's age and I aspired to be like John Terry
Paul: I notice that Jacob's chair is a gaming chair. I can't imagine Jason wants the lads staying up all night playing Call of Duty
Jacob (hastily): "This isn't my gaming chair its my revision chair! My gaming chair is in another room. All the lads do play Playstation and XBox but we don't stay up too late. It is a good way to socialise.
Neil: What stick will the young lad who scored last night receive on his return ?
Jacob: Micah will get a good reception. We'll all want to know what it felt like.
Alison: Jason - what were the best and worst things for you about the transition from player to coach ?
Jason: The best thing is what a privilege it feels to be working with the next group of young players hungry to improve. It is frustrating sometimes when they are inconsistent in performance and behaviour but I try to teach them. I hope I have found a good balance - there has to be a line but I am a little bit friendly and we enjoy a laugh"
Trevor: Jacob - how is your week split between football and education ?
Jacob: Wednesday is entirely education - no training. We do the Sports Excellence Profession which covers things like diet, psychology and communication. There is also Player Care when we do team building activities. It is good to relax and get to know your team mates better. We also do refereeing and coaching badges courses.
Robert: How did you feel when you heard you had won the Steve Clarke award ?
Jacob: I was playing on the Playstation when my dad called me downstairs. He was standing there with my mum and I thought I was in trouble. When he told me, I was buzzing. I was pleased to be following Henry Rylah. I was very pleased as it was quite tough last year to balance my football with my GCSEs.
Martin: Jason - do you teach young players your legendary game management skills of obtaining quick-recovery injuries in the last minutes of a game?
Jason: I love development football but sometimes I struggle with it because I always want to win. I do try to impart some little strategies but not to fake an injury.
David: Jason - how far along are you with your own coaching qualifications ?
Jason: I have done a Youth Award Course at St George's Park and I've started my Pro Licence, although that is more about management than coaching. My training is funded part by the club and part by me. I'd love to be a manager in the future.
Richard: Jacob - have you played any under 21 football yet ?
Jacob: Yes. It was amazing to play at Hillsborough Stadium. We played Coventry away and they had five of six Championship players in the team. I was impressed with how good they were at the basics.
David: How is under 18 training structured and how much individual tuition given to a young player before a game ?
Jason: We will concentrate on topics - for example in possession or out of possession or finishing from wide areas. We might do that for two weeks. We try to link this with key performance indicators for each game. The daily warm up will be integrated to the topic. We try to keep things game-realistic with repetition of what might happen in a game.
Each player has an individual development plan which sets specific goals. We review progress with Kevin James and the analysts over cycles of six games. I am Jacob's mentor so I will rate him against the criteria of (1) below under 18 standard (2) at under 18 standard and (3) above under 18 standard. He will rate himself as well and we constantly review it.
Chris: Is there any chance of Jason doing Charlton TV again ? He was excellent and gave a really good insight
Jason: I would love to. I really enjoyed it and you get a really good view. If I was asked back again I would love to
Stewart: Are there any commanding centre backs coming through the ranks ?
Jason: Yes. Keenan Gough and Josh Laqeretabua, Mason Hunter, David Danso, Ethan Cann who is a real leader.
Richard: Jason - can you talk us through how it felt when you were managing the first team ?#
Jason: It was daunting. The team were on a run of poor results. I didn't sleep very well before having to address the players. I know that the first impression of a new coach can be crucial. I tried to impress on them what I stood for. I told them we weren't far away from turning it round but we needed to work harder out of possession.
Tom: How do our youth facilities compare with other clubs? What are the positive elements and what could be improved ?
Jacob: Obviously category one academies have a lot better facilities - lots of pristine pitches for example but facilities are not so important in my opinion. You can have too many pitches. At Sparrows Lane you see everyone. Category One teams see our compact facilities and underestimate us. Liverpool saw the size our pitch and asked if we were playing nine a side. Chelsea were moaning about leaves on the pitch. We thrive on being underdogs and can beat them on the pitch.
Richard: Jason - how well do you remember the winning goal at Wembley in 2019 when you and Patrick Bauer were queuing up at the far post?
Jason: I remember it very well. It was one of the very best days of my career. I had a good relationship with the BFG and he called for me to leave it, so I did. He would have done the same for me.
Martin: Did the youth teams get the chance to travel up to Old Trafford for the cup tie in January?
Jacob: No, it was a school night but I was at the play-off final. I knew the history of the 1998 game and I felt like a fan one hundred per cent. I was right at the top and the celebrations were crazy.
Simon: Jason - what exact age group do you work with?
Jason: I am the Professional Development Phase Lead Coach so I am responsible for 17-21 but I lead on the under 18s (mostly 16 and 17) although some second years will train with the under 21s. I like to work with a group of players day in and day out. I inherited a very talented group and last year we won the League. We might not win the League this year but we will be challenging. I bring honesty to the players which is important for their development. Football can be very ruthless.
Robert: Jason - how much of a say do you have on when a young player is ready to make their first team debut ?
Jason: A lot. I have daily conversations with Andy Scott and The Gaffer. Michael will give opportunities to young players when the time is right.
David: Do the young players get the chance to visit the museum and learn about the history of the club ?
Jacob: I haven't been yet.
Jason: Yes you have ! The under 18s went as a group.
Jacob: Oh, I must have missed that.
Jason: I think it is important that young players have a sense of the history of the club and to see my play-off boots.
Sam: How much difference has the changing nature of coaching made - with more technical analysis and statistics etc ?
Jacob: I love it. Everything is filmed - matches and training. You can watch back from a higher angle and discuss with the analyst. You can go through 6 or 8 clips with your mentor and look at what you might have done differently. Also, we can watch best practice from the top Leagues in Europe. We always wear a GPS stats vest and the data you get adds a good sense of competition.
Jason: When I was his age there was no analysis. Sometimes I think it goes too far - for example telling players to run less. But analysis of passing is very valuable. I think it is important to push the lads out of their comfort zone. Some players will break but that is football. At the moment the group is a very quiet group (not Jacob) so we try to encourage them to speak in front of the group and to bring in player-led tasks. Recently Jacob and a team mate did pre-match analysis on our opponents and presented it to the squad. It was very powerful.
David: Jacob - how much notice do you take of social media and the dangers inherent in it ?
Jacob: It can be a problem. We have to be very careful what we post because we are representing the club. There are positives in that you can showcase yourself and network.
Jason: I use it to show who I am - more than just a football person, also a family man. There are a lot of negatives. It doesn't matter whether you play well or poorly you will still get abuse. You need a thick skin. We try to educate the lads to limit the use. But it was really good to see Micah's goal on Wednesday on social media.
Andrew: Now that we've seen what's on offer at the canteen through Alfie May's "day in the life" video what is your favourite food at Charlton and your preferred pre-match meal?
Jacob: I eat pasta the night before and beans on toast with melted cheese on the morning of a game. I like a take away Chinese after a game.
Jason: I do enjoy a Five Guys burger with chips, but only if I've done my fitness routines first! I like cheese on toast with spaghetti on top.
Paul: How much do the men's women's and youth teams mix ?
Jason: I'd like to see a lot more mixing. Andy Scott wants to develop a one club ethos but we don't interact as much as I would like. There are different meal times and they train in different parts of the training ground. We will try to change that. Successful clubs do that. It would be massive for Jacob to sit next to George Dobson for lunch. I still believe in cleaning boots because that forges a bond between young players and established professionals but that isn't allowed any more.
Jacob: On Mondays we do Brilliant Basics. We might watch the first team train and we might use the first team gym to warm down.
Martin: As a club do we have a mental health department for young players as part of their development ?
Jason: Yes, there are workshops with Joe Francis and colleagues.
Daniel: Jason - I wonder if you realise how much it means to fans to have someone who has stuck with the club for so long and who clearly has that bond with the club that fans can relate to.
Jason: Thank you. I do feel a strong relationship with the club and I respect the fans who have been through the tough times with the club. I want to give back as much as I can and, when I stood in as first team coach, I just wanted to help really. I don't want to step up to management now. It isn't right for me now. I will work hard and I will know when I am ready. I look up to Jacko and the way he went into management without much coaching experience but I want to do it a different way. I want to keep my good relationship with the fans.
Heather thanked Jason and Jacob once again and many of those present expressed their compliments through the chat function.